Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 6, 2014

On Poetry: Feeling our way toward spring

Spring seems like barely a vague hope right now. A thin possibility.

The heaps of snow are sinking and dirty along the streets, the pavement soggy and pockmarked. Well, worse than pockmarked. More like bottomless pits in some places. This is the season that drives many people out of town, to their condos in Florida or Mexico. Yet many of us hang tight, watching the season’s interminably slow turning. Which is why I chose this poem — to encourage it along.

Amy Gerstler begins in the middle of a feeling. As if she’s been discussing this and we came along in time to hear part of the conversation. “Gardens are also ...” She must have been saying good things about gardens, maybe how they brighten your spirits. But they’re also “good places to sulk.”

Clearly, we’ve walked in on a different way of seeing. Gardens have “voodoo lilies.” Not a usual way to see them. Kind of dark, mysterious. And we’re there in search of plants that in ancient myths transformed into other things, into birds and fish.

Granted, there’s plenty to sulk about in our everyday way of seeing: weather, personal difficulties, wars, politics. Like the ancients, we can hope for magical transformation. And sure enough, in the next stanza, here it comes.

A walk in the garden brings us in touch with our entire human past. It brings us in touch with what is surely an archetypal yearning for peace with everything else. This is natural. This is the way it works. We get our hands dirty in the soil, we plant and weed, we prick our fingers, and we feel our deep kinship with the universe.

And even more than that, we discover our secret belief in perpetual spring. It’s secret because we hardly see it, we hardly acknowledge it. But our cells keep renewing, our entire being keeps renewing, and somewhere in our minds, we harbor a trust that all hurts have some natural soothing.

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